Video: Getting Out of My Own Way

In About Music for People, MfP Stories by jan_mfp

For Kevin, participating in Music for People’s Musicianship and Leadership Program helped him turn off the negative self-talk about his playing and get out of his own way.

Kevin Cosgrove: Kevin Cosgrove. I graduated with Joelle among others in 2001. What I really…. I’ve gotten so much out of Music for People it’s really hard to condense it in two minutes. But I think of Music for People as group therapy for musicians. And I have a saying I live by which is, “Don’t trust any group of people who don’t have musical instruments.” Just be suspicious. A bunch of people together and they’re not playing, you have to wonder what they’re up to.

Music for People for me changed my life, as it does for so many people who attend. Profoundly. I’d gone through so many years of playing. And I’d actually given up playing because I couldn’t pick up an instrument without being completely flooded with negative self-talk. I saw David Darling do a clinic, and in that clinic, I had two friends — one of whom was more uptight than me and one who would roll on the ground singing. I decided that I should be closer to the one who was rolling on the ground and singing completely uninhibited. And that to play music without that kind of freedom would always restrict my ability to actually do what I started out playing music for — which was self-expression.

When you’re a kid and you start playing music it’s because — to me music really was was magic. How do you make a note? How do you do that? It’s just awe-inspiring. And truly David’s work in the group and community of Music for People brought me back to that sense of awe. And it’s served me so well as a musician. In retrospect I wish I’d discovered this when I was ten. Obviously, that would have been helpful. To be supported with the idea of being able to make one note and have a community that would support you to make one note. Compared to when I went to Berklee out of high school, after I was there for a year I couldn’t play at all because everything I did was wrong and I was like 17. Holding your pick wrong. Holding your shoulders wrong. There were so many things going through my head as opposed to listening…, connecting…, all these things they don’t teach you at a good conservatory of music school.

And it’s amazing that any of us actually get to play at a sufficient level because you have to fight your doubts. I never thought about it this way until Music for People, but it takes an amazing amount of courage and chutzpah to think that you can actually play something well enough or that you’ll have the time or that you’ll have to drive to do that.

So I’ve used Music for People techniques the past couple of years because I was traveling the world unexpectedly. My brother got sick in China, and I went there and I couldn’t sleep because there was a period of time where it looked like he wasn’t going to live. So I would go out in the street and hang out. And I ended up meeting all these Chinese musicians hanging out in the street. And I can’t speak a word of Chinese, but they would go like [gesture to join]. They invited me to sit down, and they’re passing this instrument around. When I played it, I got to play with people in China including a classical Chinese ensemble where his guy grabbed me by the shoulders and said, “Sit down.” And I said, “I can’t play,” but then I realized I wasn’t being very Music-for-People about this. Use your ear. So I told myself “I’ll use my Music for People techniques.” And I was able to play with an orchestra in China by listening, playing a lot of silence, waiting for that one spot and filling it nicely.

I had the same experience when I went to Africa last year. I got to meet a gentleman named Baaba Maal who was showing me how to do a guitar part, and I got so scared. He’s a renowned musician and someone I really admire. And I said, “Oh my God, I’m going to blow this. He’s trying to teach me. I’ll never get it.” And then I realize because of Music for People, I don’t really have to get it. It makes no difference whatsoever. That I should be going, “Oh my God, I’m sitting across the table here from Baaba Maal, someone I love, who cares if I ever get this right. I’ve learned so much from Music for People. As soon as I gave up the idea of having to do it right, of course, I did it. It was easy. So much of what I’ve learned from Music for People as a musician is getting out of my own way. And of course, everyone needs a community, and the community of people here is just supportive and wonderful. So I’m blessed.

About Kevin Cosgrove

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